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Future of city's public transit is in the voters' hands

November 1, 2016

Voters in Marion County have an opportunity to leave their mark on the city's future Nov. 8 when they cast ballots on the public transit referendum, an initiative that has the potential to significantly expand public transportation in Indianapolis.

If the referendum passes, Marion County officials could establish a county economic development income tax rate up to 0.25 percent, or 25 cents for each $100 in annual income. If the county adopts the increase, public transportation would have the resources to expand the number of routes offered through the IndyGo bus system and the projected bus rapid transit system, increase the hours of operation, and take other steps to shape the future of public transportation in the city.

In May, the City-County Council voted to put the referendum on the Nov. 8 ballot, giving Marion County voters a voice in the future of public transportation. The outcome of the initiative isn't binding on elected officials, but it would be an indication of public support for a transportation system that is important to many workers, students and seniors; offers a pathway to economic growth; and could attract new residents attuned to the amenities that many U.S. cities consider a community asset.

Downtown Indy.

Downtown Indianapolis streets, neighborhoods and business districts would benefit from improvements to the city's public transportation system.

Campus and public transportation support

IUPUI has been a consistent advocate for public transportation improvements under both Chancellor Emeritus Charles R. Bantz and Chancellor Nasser H. Paydar.

Chancellor Bantz, for instance, testified before the Indiana General Assembly in support of public transportation, and both chancellors have written to federal transportation officials in support of such projects. To them, public transportation:

  • Allows faculty, staff, students and patients alternative means to get to campus.
  • Supports economic development by making the community more attractive to students and faculty.
  • Controls the cost of providing parking.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, Chancellor Paydar indicated that an improved public transportation system would enhance the quality of life for IUPUI students, faculty and staff who live in downtown Indianapolis and could live without a car.

He cited research that indicates people ages 25 to 34 choose cities rather than jobs after completing their education, and for them, quality public transportation is a factor in where they choose to locate.

Paydar believes that for IUPUI to be competitive for faculty, staff, technicians, medical residents and nurses -- many of them in the 25-to-34 category -- a viable public transportation system is vital.

The campus has joined Transit Drives Indy, a grassroots coalition advocating on behalf of the Marion County Transit Referendum. Among fellow members of the coalition are the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, the Indianapolis Congregation Action Network, the Indianapolis Urban League, AARP Indiana and other community organizations.

Financial perspective

If the referendum passes, and county officials adopt the 0.25 percent rate, here is a snapshot of how it would affect households by income:

Annual income                Per month

     $150,000                         $31

      $75,000                          $16

      $30,000                           $9

      $20,000                           $4


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